It's funny how the first 48 hours after learning I'm without new income I'm a bit of a machine in opportunity seeking. The thing that's particularly different these days is that I'm far from starving or taking on all kinds of debt. I'm still in a pretty good cash flow position until mid-January, assuming no leads. But I do have leads, so for now it's all about enjoying this month's vacation.
But I've spent a lot of time being reflective of my prior days and careers and how money fits into the whole scene. Shortly after college, I remember there was some amount of tension between Stephanie and I because, once on my own, I felt like I was keeping us both afloat and it seemed unfair. I didn't like myself very much back then for acting that way, and we nearly broke up at the time. But I eventually got a decent job and I promised not to let that kind of feeling get the best of me, knowing full well that I was dating/marrying someone who would be in school for quite a few years to come.
Then I had my dotcom windfall from the sale of popworld.com, and I was working in my first true Internet job, getting paid pretty well. Really, from that point on, even with some depressing layoffs and such, we always lived pretty comfortably. Post-divorce, that became even more true, especially as a single guy. The comfort that came with my income became most apparent around my birthday in July of 2006. Cath and I had just started dating, and I figured, what the hell, let's go party in Vegas. She pointed out at the time that she had dated guys who bought a lot of stupid shit to compensate for something, whereas I was willing to spend money for experiences, like taking someone I just met on a trip. Sure enough, that ranks as one of my favorite vacations of all time. It wasn't the last time I bought plane tickets for a companion either.
I have my gadget lust, sure, but I feel like I've reached a pretty good understanding with myself about the importance of money as it pertains to the lifestyle I want to have. Cars and houses remain unimportant, so long as they're reliable and practical. Status luxury objects in general aren't important to me. Beyond basics, I like to have enough money to go out to eat a lot, as in local joints around ten bucks a plate, buy music, books and movies when I feel like it, travel at least every other month with nice hotels and be generally comfortable. That's not really as expensive as you'd think. What's left over, I want to save. (That's the one minor point of not working right now, is that I haven't hit my max IRA contributions this year.)
You have to look at the other side of that equation though. You obviously have to do some kind of work to generate that income. I've known the potential of six-figure income now for years, but I've only followed through on it twice. The reason is that the rest of the time I felt as if I were giving up some part of my soul to achieve it. I've met a lot of people like that, stressed out constantly, always looking for some milestone and never being satisfied. Those people are miserable. I first encountered it on a consulting job, and after five months stopped and asked myself what the hell I was doing. I quit and wrote a book for a couple grand, and it was one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. The money isn't important if I have to be unhappy to get it.
And so I've determined the third point of the J-Pizzie Lifestyle Manifesto:
"Balance your life with career and money to find the sweet spot that gives you the comfort and adventure you require, without the expense of damaging your soul."